Small businesses and entrepreneurs, who comprise the heart of the American economy, continue to face challenges arising from the pandemic – predominantly minority-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs of color. Small businesses owned by people of color already face systemic barriers to accessing financing and business resources and are more likely to have to take drastic steps to stay afloat. Given this, the City of Fort Worth has provided small businesses with an influx of information, resources, and funds, supporting them in pivoting to meet the unprecedented business challenges arising from the pandemic. A key service that enabled the survival of small businesses in Fort Worth at the height of the pandemic was the Economic Development Department’s Business Assistance Center (BAC). The BAC is a one-stop shop that provides training, technical assistance, funding opportunities, and business support services to established, start-up small businesses and micro-enterprises. During the pandemic, the BAC and its partners successfully shifted their services to support the immediate needs of small businesses in the city.
However, small businesses’ needs have now permanently changed in the face of the pandemic, and the BAC must adapt to provide programs and resources that grow and strengthen Fort Worth’s entrepreneurial ecosystem post-pandemic, placing a renewed focus on nurturing the uptake of services by minority-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs of color. The City of Fort Worth will partner with FUSE Corps to build the BAC’s capacity, enabling it to supply the most impactful technical and programmatic resources to the city’s minority and women-owned small businesses. The FUSE Executive Fellow will work closely with the small business community to capture these businesses’ needs, ensure the assistance provided by the BAC meets those needs, and tailor recommendations and process improvements that revitalize the BAC through a lens of equity. Through the successful execution of this work, there will be more opportunities to start and grow businesses for anyone in Fort Worth, thus creating a more diverse and inclusive business environment.